Fistula is a medical term, used to describe abnormal connection between two organs.
If this occurs in the gut, it is called gastro-intestinal fistula.
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Gastric acid and intestinal fluids usually flow out through this abnormal opening that may result in severe infection.
It's not uncommon that infection spreads all over the body, including the blood, leading to strong immune response. It usually becomes apparent in high fever, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, low blood pressure and polyorganic dysfunction. If not treated quickly, sepsis becomes an extremely dangerous, life-threatening event.
In vast majority (nearly 85%) of cases, gastrointestinal fistula happens after surgical procedures in the belly.
Internal fistulas cause connections inside abdominal cavity or thorax. Intestinal fistulas are openings between two different parts of the gut. If fluids leak from the gut into other body organs (bladder, lungs or even vessels), it is known as extraintestinal fistula.
External fistulas, which joint certain gastrointestinal areas with the skin, usually develop after surgery interventions.
In some cases, connections appear in different organs at the same time. Doctors call them complex fistulas.
As we've said, fistula often occurs after surgery. Actually, they usually appear in the course of first week of postoperative period.
Some people have higher risks of getting fistula than others. Specialists say that those, who have cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, diverticular disease or aortic aneurysm, are much more likely to get this health issue.
Undergoing radiation treatment is another risk factor for intestinal fistula.
In rare cases, traumatic events (car accident injuries, gunshot wounds) cause unnatural connections between gut and skin.
So, even though many people believe that fistulas appear because of intestinal stenosis, there is wide variety of factors that may be responsible for this trouble.
Depending on the type of the fistula, its size and amount of leaking fluids, symptoms may vary in severity and rate of progression.
External fistulas become apparent in unusual discharge on the skin surface, abdominal pain and fever.
Those, who have internal fistulas, often complain of diarrhea, painful sensations in the belly, nausea, vomiting and extreme weakness. When too much fluid runs out through the fistula, a person may become extremely dehydrated.
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It's very important to recognize and treat gastrointestinal fistulas timely to avoid dangerous consequences.
In some cases, fistulas may close on its own, without any interventions, while other situations require urgent hospitalization and surgical treatment.
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